Schloss

My morning walk-run is straight up behind the hotel to the old remnants of the fort above the town.  The village is tucked into a strip between the Danube and the limestone cliffs, so a minute after I close the heavy back door of the hotel I am climbing steep stone stairs two at a time until I am panting and have to slow it down – my lungs and my legs compete as weak points.

Halfway up – and only approachable on foot – is a church that rings out the quarter hours into my hotel window (it quickly went from annoying to comforting) and still bongs its bells at 7 this Sunday morning to wake up this village of Catholic sinners.  The tiny churchyard – the church is built on an outcrop – is a cemetery (do they import dirt? the whole thing is ledge) with superlarge headstones of handsome black granite, with gold Gothic lettering for the Niedermeiers and Brunners who lived here. Jesus, quite lifelike, surveys the dead he will temporarily join from the passion of his cross at the far end.

To enter the grounds of the broken castle I have to run up to the back side, under the trees.  In the 4 days I have been here, the ground has erupted in purple flowers – the joy of spring is everywhere, the sheer utter power of life to assert itself in spite of entropy, in the face of the emptiness of space, in spite of the impassive faces of the gods.  This is where Jesus and I meet, in spite of the distaste I expressed last post for the People of the Book: Life will out, life will shove its fingers up through cold dirt, life will occupy the smallest crevice.  Life will even hang in space, 100 miles above the earth, and one day life will leave this lonely outpost in search of its brothers.

The commonplace roots of this wonderful tenacity are evident from the high edge of the stone wall at the top.  The river, free of barges this early and placidly glinting in the newly resurrected sun, winds through flat countryside opposite these cliffs, where the brown soil has given way to green shoots of ‘korn’ (as the Germans call all grains) in the quilted geometry of farms stretching into the misty distance, with spots of lichen orange roof tiles marking the occurrence of other villages of the same character.

I take giant steps back down, my irrational exuberance drawing a purse-lipped stare from the matron opening the church to tidy up an already spotless room for early mass.  It’s hard to imagine that the sins absolved in this symbol of aspiration are terribly imaginative.  I think if I were a priest (and I am, I suppose, of a sort, all therapists are), the hardest part for me would be the banality of human sinning, the repetitive lack of true creativity. That is the wonderful attraction of Die Teufel – his imaginative ability to annoy God.  I think I would begin to long for someone to confess a grand sin, a sin that would actually catch the attention of the Almighty.

But maybe I underestimate what goes on behind these solid burghers’ doors…

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